Once again, my friends, it’s happened. I’ve found a new comic book I loved, I’ve given my heart to it, and now I’m going to have to watch it slowly die. I’m talking, of course, about Thor: The Mighty Avenger. You know that already, though, right? You were along for the ride, you were eagerly awaiting each issue, you were gushing over the gorgeous artwork of Chris Samnee and marveling (no pun intended) over the fantastic scripts by Roger Langridge, including such exciting and often unexpected guest-stars as the Warriors Three, Namor, Captain Britain, and (soon) Iron Man? You know what I’m talking about, right?
Of course you don’t. If more of you did, the book wouldn’t even be getting chopped.
When a precious book is cancelled, the gut reaction is to lash out against the publisher, and to a degree there’s some justification in that. You can ask if they did everything they could to support the book, everything they could to promote it, everything they could to get the word out, everything they could to convince the new readers to give the book a try. And if you don’t think the publisher did do everything possible, it can be infuriating. But sometimes they make every possible effort to sustain a book and, despite that, it fails just because not enough people are buying it, and this is a business, damn it. Every editor who’s been in comics more than a minute has had to break the news to a writer and artist team that their pet title just wasn’t pulling in the numbers. It’s a shame, it flat-out sucks, but it’s a fact of the business.
This happens an awful lot, of course. In the past few years we’ve seen some really magnificent comics struggle and fall due to lack of sales – Manhunter, Atlas, Blue Beetle, Monolith, Captain Britain and MI 13 and Dan Slott’s short but precious run on The Thing all come immediately to mind. I know a few people – and I’m lookin’ at you, Walt Kneeland – who will often resist trying out even the best-reviewed title under the assumption that either it will be collected in trade and they can catch up or that it will be cancelled and then leave them missing another great book. I can understand that mindset, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If too many of the people who would enjoy a comic decide not to purchase it, it won’t make enough money to survive and they’ll never have the chance to enjoy it when it reaches round two.
Comics are a lot like television shows in this respect. People are so used to great shows (coughFireflycough) getting the axe before even a full season that they don’t even want to try a show that first year or two. As a result, some great shows struggle and falter and sometimes just plain go away. (Devotees of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, I feel your pain.) It’s a natural impulse, a natural fear. Once a person has had their heart broken enough times, they’re terrified to let anybody else in for fear of having it broken again. But my friends, if you wall yourselves off from the world you’ll never find true happiness. Go out there, take a chance, at least for an issue or two. (Or an episode. You know how this works.) I know it’s a risk. But if it will lead you took a book like Thor: The Mighty Avenger, that’s a risk worth taking.
Okay, that’s the message for the reticent reader. Which, now that I think about it, would be an awesome name for a C-list, educational superhero. “The Reticent Reader, armed with stacks of Tolstoy and Melville, prepares to charge into the den of Illiteracy with his battle cry: ‘Sooooo… anybody want a story?’” You see, if they were publishing books like this, they would never get cancelled. Ahem. Anyway, let’s talk about those of us who already take a chance on these low-tier comics should be doing. It’s really pretty simple, guys: talk them up. Every one of you who was upset about the news about this title’s cancellation – or for that matter, any other worthwhile title that got the plug pulled because of low sales – ask yourself how many people you talked about the book to. I know, it’s easy for me. I write a column, I write reviews, I have a podcast that (when last I checked the stats) was listened to by literally tens of people last week alone. I’ve got a platform that many of you don’t. But you’ve got friends. You’ve got Twitter and Facebook. You talk to people in comic shops. This is your opportunity, guys.
Don’t be obnoxious about it, of course, but a casual comment can be the first step to putting a bug in somebody’s ear. Give a tweet or two a week to comics you think deserve it. “This week’s issue of Atlas was great,” for example. Use that to kick off the conversation. Take it from there. Do the same on Facebook. Hell, start a thread here at CX, or join in the conversation if there already is one. If your friends have a book they won’t shut the hell up about, make a deal with ‘em – you’ll read an issue of their title if they’ll read an issue of yours.
Truth is, if everybody who enjoyed Thor: The Mighty Avenger had tried to get just one more person reading, it may have had enough of a boost to stick around for a while. And the same goes for a lot of those books I mentioned before. The moral is clear – next time you love a book, don’t wait until it’s cancelled to tell people. Start spreading the word before it’s too late.
Favorite of the Week: November 10, 2010
Here’s a book that doesn’t particularly need my help, but it was easily my favorite single issue released last week – the surprisingly effective Justice League: Generation Lost #13. Maxwell Lord, along with the other 11 people resurrected by the White Lantern, was given a task to accomplish to have his life fully restored. Continuing with his plan, Max has turned his power on Magog and given him a singular mission – kill Captain Atom. This a major issue, friends, and not in the fake out sense. Something happens that’s pretty big, and even if you don’t think the event itself is a big deal, the repercussions for the cast of this title are huge. Judd Winick has done a wonderful job with this cast, forging them into a reluctant team, giving Jaime Reyes a place where he seems to belong for a reason besides just being a teenage superhero, rekindling the classic Fire/Ice relationship, and turning a new Rocket Red into a wonderfully entertaining character. More than ever, I find myself hoping that once this title ends DC gives Winick these characters to play with in an ongoing series. It’s been some time since anyone used the title Justice League International, after all.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.